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'Not going to stop': family of Jacob Blake lead peaceful Kenosha march | Jacob Blake


Family members of Jacob Blake, the Black man shot and gravely wounded by a white police officer in Kenosha last Sunday, led a large rally in the small Wisconsin city on Saturday afternoon, with chants of “Seven bullets, seven days” ringing out to mark the number of shots the young father reportedly took to his back.

A crowd of around 1,000 heard Wisconsin Democratic congresswoman Gwen Moore address the rally, saying “I am mad as hell” about the injury that left Blake fighting for his life in the local hospital.

Later on Saturday, Donald Trump indicated he would visit Kenosha on Tuesday. “Probably so,” Trump told reporters in Texas, where he was viewing storm damage after Hurricane Laura, when asked if he would visit the city.

Relatives including Blake’s father, Jacob Blake Sr, and sister, Letetra Widman, spoke, having not long returned from speaking at Friday’s huge “get your knee off our necks” civil rights march in Washington, DC, on the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” address in 1963.

The Washington rally and march was organized to protest the killing of George Floyd by a white police officer who knelt on his neck in Minneapolis in May during an attempted arrest. Some protesters had marched from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 40 miles (64km) north of Kenosha, to the capital.

But it served as a protest for the wounding of Blake and a demand for the end of years of racist attacks and police killings of African Americans.

The rally in Kenosha on Saturday was peaceful but impassioned, following several days of calm demonstrations in the city since Tuesday night’s violent clash, in which armed white agitators appeared in town and shot at Black Lives Matter protesters, leading to two deaths.

Jacob Blake Sr decried the local police to the crowd in Kenosha: “What gave them the right to think that my son was an animal?” he said.

He pledged the protests would go on.

“We’re not going to stop. We’re still suffering because there are two justice systems. There’s one for that white boy that walked down the street and killed two people and blew another man’s arm off. Then there’s one for my son,” he said.

A crowd of about 1,000 turned out in Kenosha for a peaceful protest on Saturday
A crowd of about 1,000 turned out in Kenosha for a peaceful protest on Saturday. Photograph: Scott Olson/Getty Images

He was referring to Kyle Rittenhouse, the 17-year-old who appeared on the streets with an assault rifle on Tuesday night and walked through police lines after shooting protesters, with no consequences until he turned himself in in Illinois 12 hours later. He is now charged with numerous felonies, including intentional homicide.

Blake Sr also addressed white allies, many of whom have been marching in Kenosha and elsewhere in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

“My caucasian counterparts we love you, but you will never understand what we go through,” he said.

Letetra Widman led many of the chants ringing out, including “seven bullets, seven days” and “I’m proud of being Black. I love Black people”.

She had attracted attention the day after her brother was shot, with a fierce denunciation of historical violence against African Americans. She said she had not cried, instead she was angry, adding: “I don’t want your pity, I want change.”

On Saturday, she recited lines of poetry to the burgeoning crowd: “I am the keeper and I won’t accept your abuse. I am the keeper and I will not die – for 400 years you have tried”, referring to the four centuries since the first abducted Africans were forcibly brought to the US and sold into slavery.

Jacob Blake’s uncle Justin Blake urged those gathered to campaign non-stop. “Don’t just wait until a body hits the ground to put your boots on. Put your boots on every day and do that work,” he said.

The rally was organized by the family and a local campaign group Black Lives Activists of Kenosha (BLAK).

Moore said one prize for protesters would be the passing of the George Floyd justice in policing sweeping reform act, legislation that she helped introduce to Congress, but which is a long way from becoming law, with Republicans in control of the Senate and the White House.

The Wisconsin lieutenant governor, Mandela Barnes, told the boisterous crowd: “I want us to get together like this in the happy times, too.”

But he added: “Black people made it through some of the toughest times in human history and we’re still here today. Justice is the bare minimum, so we are not going away until we see justice.”

The disturbances of the past week, particularly the arrival of armed outsiders such as Rittenhouse, have rattled Kenosha. People have painted messages of unity and hope on boarded up storefronts.

“It’s gotten to the point where I won’t go out after a certain time, after dark. Who’s to say that within the crowds there’s a guy who wants to kill Black people,” said resident Macari Gosa, 27, who works at a discount convenience store.

More than 1,000 national guard troops have been deployed to Kenosha from several states but have been standing by on the outskirts of marches in the last few days.

But there has been intense anger at arrests of dozens of non-violent protesters by federal agents who would not identify themselves.

Rittenhouse is being held without bond in Illinois, awaiting transfer to Wisconsin, and intends to argue self-defense, according to his lawyer, Lin Wood.

Reuters contributed reporting.

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